GUEST AUTHOR BLOG: The 9 Laws of Affinity to Survive Digital Darwinism by Brian Solis, the author of "The End of Business as Usual."
Digital Darwinism is the evolution of consumer behavior when society and technology evolve faster than the ability to adapt.
Today, people have uninhibited access to platforms, channels and tools to express themselves at will. This new generation of connected customers are reaching the masses to organize game-changing movements across the world. Yet, despite the universal potential for connectivity, businesses are still struggling to understand the real impact of connected consumerism.
On a basic level, consumers need to feel that they are being heard, that action is taken on their behalf. Gaining followers on Twitter or "Likes" on Facebook is one thing, but to connect and foster real relationships, organizations must learn how to listen and adapt to consumer engagement.
The reality is that society and technology evolve faster than a brand’s ability to adapt. The good news is you have a role in defining where things go next. It all begins with attracting the attention of connected consumers and delivering consistent value to ultimately earn their affinity.
Today’s biggest trends — the mobile web, social media, gamification, real-time — are changing the landscape for business, government, media and consumerism. However, as consumers become better at personalizing their online experiences, they re-evaluate the people, organizations and information with whom they choose to connect. Therefore, the keys to long-term engagement and relationships are intelligence, empathy and resilience.
Although this is the end of business as usual, it’s also the beginning of a new era of visibility. Businesses now have the opportunity to become relevant in new channels and networks by forming meaningful alliances. To do that takes far more than gimmicks, contests and clever videos. It takes consistent value that the user can appreciate over time.
Connected consumers discover and communicate differently than their traditional consumer counterparts. To connect with them, companies must identify potential challenges, trends, POVs and interests. To adapt, organizations need to examine the impact of technology on consumer behavior, and to understand its effect on consumer decision-making and peer influence.
1. Design an Effective Channel Strategy: Evaluate the main brand, sub brands, and notable personalities that require a “follow worthy” or “likable” presence. If there are other accounts that exist beyond the initial strategy, assess their value as a standalone channel and its current state. It may be best to truncate accounts or close them all together.
2. Create a Life Support System: Develop an organized framework that supports each presence uniquely. Ensure that each account establishes a rhythm that meets the needs of its audience.
3. Mission and Purpose: Know the audience you’re trying to reach and design a communicable mission and purpose for each account.
4. Develop an Editorial Program: Create an editorial program that addresses the various needs of the social consumer including entertainment, sales, service, engagement, HR, etc. Evoke the new K.I.S.S. (Keep It Significant and Shareable). Create content that’s both engaging, contextually relevant, and shareable. Think beyond the basics such as polls, curation, promotional content, questions.
5. Construct a Listening Framework: The best listeners make the best conversationalists. Build a listening framework that monitors the brands as well as the distinct conversations related to each account.
6. Establish Conversational Workflow: Each account requires an information path and workflow. They also require bridges between them to ensure that every representative is informed and that the right delegates within the business are on point to engage or respond accordingly.
7. Formulate a Decision Tree: Draft a clear flowchart that details the steps for a variety of “if this happens, then do this” situations. This is designed to help representatives follow a pre-defined path for the real-time nature of engagement.
8. Initiate a Training Program: Representatives will require ongoing training to stay sharp and focused. Every engagement either reinforces or takes away from the brand experience. As technology moves faster than our ability to master its lessons, training keeps employees on track.
9. Install a Governance and Reward System: Much like the marketing team protects the integrity of the brand and how it’s presented, a social team is necessary to manage the integrity of each Twitter account as well as the overall portfolio. At the same time, a reward system must be put in place to encourage exceptional work.
10. Draft a Social Media Brand Style Guide: Chances are a style guide already exists that communicates brand presentation, usage guidelines, and other forms of brand-related marketing aesthetics. This guide requires a significant update to account for social media. Its primary function is to define the brand persona, characteristics, voice, and essence. Additionally, the updated style guide will define the design of each presence and how represents should accurately enliven it through narrative. You can read the style guide here.
11. Compose Guidelines and Do’s and Don’ts: Develop a social media policy that conveys the do’s and don’ts in social media. If one already exists, update it. The law has changed and now protects employee rights to express opinion about employers within their personal accounts. Additionally, many employees complain that the existing guidelines are either too extreme or ambiguous to define successful engagement. Design the guideline to serve as guardrails and also a roadmap to success. You can read more here
12. Serve Customers and Prospects: Social consumers now expect brands to solve problems and answer questions in social streams. Each channel requires a service function or a dedicated channel to satisfy needs and promote appreciation and loyalty.
13. Employ Language and Timing Techniques: Two points of note, timing is everything and in brevity there’s clarity. Studies already show that the time and day and the language structure of Tweets and Facebook updates determine overall reach and engagement. Optimize language and timing to make every update count.
14. Design Engagement and Performance Metrics: Monitor the performance of each account to improve the engagement and editorial strategy for each account.
Following these best practices will prevent your brand from falling victim to the coming wave of customer unlikes and unfollows. But more importantly, focusing social channels and investing in the value of each will improve the customer experience and encourage greater engagement. By increasing meaningful interaction, brand reach is dramatically amplified through the social effect, encouraging customers to not only Like the brand, but genuinely love it!
Brian Solis is the author of The End of Business as Usual. His new book focuses on the emergence of a new generation of consumers who find and share information and communicate differently than their more traditional counterparts. It outlines the effects of new consumerism and introduces new adaptive frameworks to help businesses reach connected consumers. Follow him on Twitter.
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